It is the 22nd of August 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Today we get to connect the conspiracy theories, the Loch Ness monster, and the history of the Christian faith. Here we go.
First: did you ever suspect that I was a disembodied voice? An AI-generated bot? This September 25th in Sierra Vista Arizona I will be giving a few lectures and doing Q&A at Immanuel Lutheran Church. My topic is “From the Templars to the DaVinci Code: The Use and Abuse of Church History”.
So I've been thinking about conspiracy theories and the church for some time. As a historian, I am fascinated with conspiracy theories not because they are always wrong, but in the ways, they develop and what they say about the people who believe them.
One of the greatest gifts that we have with our good news is that it is no secret, not exclusive to a people or country. This stuff did not happen in a corner! While apologetics can’t make you a Christian they do insist that what we believe is in the public domain.
When a Christian goes nuts with a conspiracy theory they are to use an older phrase “sullying their witness”. If you tell people that space lizards built the pyramids or a secret cabal runs the world you will rightly be understood as straining credulity and maybe not the greatest handler of public facts. And now you want to tell me that God became man, lived, died, and rose again?
Let’s get to Nessie and see what we can do with her (her? Him?)
The story of the Loch Ness monster comes from the 1930s. The grainy photographs, the hysteria, and the cottage industry. Frankly, it’s on the lamer side of modern conspiracies. But it only became one of Scotland and the world's most famous monster hoaxes on account of St. Columba, the Irish apostle to the Picts.
Collum or Columba 521-597
Founded monasteries across Ireland before leaving for Iona and then Scotland.
He is credited for the conversion of the Picts and the conversion of Scotland.
In the 7th century The Life of St. Columba by St. Adamnan we are told the story of Columba in 565 and the legendary beast.
Columba is said to have been off to meet with a Pictish king when he stopped by the river Ness in the Scottish Highlands. As he attempted to cross the nearby River Ness he came across a group of Picts preparing to bury their dead friend. Columba entreated them to stop as he held a cross over the man, said a benediction, and he arose. The Picts told Columba that their friend was killed by a mighty sea beast.
A colleague of Columba then attempted to cross the river to fetch a small boat. Whilst swimming the mighty sea beast arose from the water and was about to kill the young monk. Columba invoked the name of Jesus and yelled “you will go no further. Do not touch the man! Leave at once!”. Nessie flew away and the Picts were baptized in the lake.
Do you hear echoes of St. Patrick and St. George? They too defeated the reptilian thing or things that posed the greatest threat to the local population.
With Nessie, the snakes, and the dragon we can be skeptical. But these “lives of the saints” weren’t supposed to be history in the sense that a modern might think of history. There is an internal logic to these fantastic stories by which the scariest possible thing is defeated in the name of Jesus. Nessie, the snakes, the dragon, and so many fantastical beasties are mythological representations of death and the devil. What troubles you? You know what made up, the magical and mysterious thing has vexed me, a thoroughly modern man? My credit score. I need a legend of someone slaying that beast. And if I did, and it was told hundreds of years from now it would be rightly understood as a story of God protecting his people from that which scares them most. Be it snakes, monsters, or modern banking.
The last word for today comes from that mysterious 2nd Epistle to the Thessalonians:
16 Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and a good hope. 17 May he encourage your hearts and give you strength in every good thing you do or say.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 22nd of August 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man, who, if caught from a distance with a fuzzy-looking photograph might be confused with Bigfoot. He is Christoper Gillespie
The show is written and read by a man who if caught from a distance with a fuzzy-looking photograph might be confused with the picture of him on 1517's website. I am Dan van Voorhis
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.